Political newcomer Mark A. Marion and second-time commissioner candidate Bill Goins were the big winners in Tuesday night’s GOP primary for two seats on the Surry County Board of Commissioners.
Since no one filed to run as a Democrat or Independent in the November election, the primary wins essentially sew up the seats for the two candidates.
Marion claimed nearly 50 percent of the vote in a crowded four-way race for the nomination for the Central District seat, and maybe a bit of vindication. In March, after Buck Golding retired from the board, the GOP executive committee selected Marion as its choice to fill that seat.
The county board of commissioners, which has the ultimate say in filling those vacancies, ignored the wishes of the GOP, selecting Dr. Gary Carson Tilley to take the post.
Tuesday, Marion surged to victory, with 2,572 — or 45.6 percent — of the vote. Gary Tilley, who has served on the board for about two months, was second at 1,559 votes, followed by Tony R. Tilley with 942 ballots and Tony Childs, who garnered 563 votes.
That board slight, Marion believes, might have played a role in his victory Tuesday.
“The people were upset, I’ve talked to people all over the county, they asked me why (that happened), I told them I don’t know,” a jubilant Marion said from a victory party at Dodge City Steakhouse in Elkin.
He said his victory shows the commissioners should have listened to the GOP, and, he believes, to the people of the county.
“This is all kind of overwhelming,” Marion said just minutes after learning he had won, struggling to find the words to express his satisfaction. “This is the people’s voice. The people know me. I’ve coached in this county for two generations. I coached the mommies and the daddies when they were little, and now I’m coaching their kids. They know what kind of person I am.
“My heart pours out for Surry County. I want to do the best I can for the citizens of Surry County.”
Marion was quick to share credit for his victory.
“I couldn’t have done it by myself, I’ve had the support of my family and my friends, and I’ve made a lot of new friends during this. It’s a wonderful feeling that the people had enough faith in me to overwhelmingly put me in. I’m going to do my best to help all the citizens of Surry County.“
Mount Airy District
Goins snatched nearly 60 percent of the vote in defeating six-year incumbent Larry Phillips by a 3,332 to 2,259 count,
Goins, a longtime educator and school administrator who has spent more than 20 years in the Surry County School System, said he wanted to be “a fresh set of eyes” for the board, and a commissioner that “will listen and be in tune” with the community.
Tuesday night, after the election, he was at home enjoying a low-key celebration.
“We just came home, ate, sat around and watched the results come in. We’ve worked hard for a couple of months, so we decided we’d just come to the house and watch the results.”
Goins first ran for office in 2016, when the Mount Airy District seat then held by Jimmy Miller came up for election. Although he lost that race, he said it played a role in his victory Tuesday.
“We learned a lot from that race, we gained a lot of support from that, we brought that support forward, with additional support this time,” he said.
Goins said this past week, as the election day approached, was nerve-wracking, given that he was facing a sitting commissioner in Larry Phillips.
“I have respect for Larry Phillips and the fact that he’s an incumbent,” Goins said. “I didn’t take anything for granted, I faced every day like we were one vote behind and we were going to go out and work for that next vote.”
Goins said he wasn’t sure if there was a single issue, or two, that made the difference, but just the work put in during the campaign.
“We connected more with people across the county. We traveled out, I talked to various groups — firemen, various communities, I feel like we attended more events and just listened to the citizens,” he said.
Goins, too, said his victory was a team effort.
“I’d like to thank all the voters, all the people who have supported me, all the folks who have worked the polls, that really made the difference. I had a lot of people helping me today, and through early voting.“